Local Projects Team conjures another holiday miracle

Miracles do come true.

Of course, if you follow The Giving Circle, you already knew that!

The finished ramp

Our local projects team, led by Ron Deutsch, recently completed another holiday miracle in the Town of Greenfield.

The team was notified that an older woman, who had fallen ill and been hospitalized for quite some time, could only celebrate the holidays at home if her home was made wheelchair-accessible. A tremendous team of volunteers came together on short notice and — retrofitting a ramp obtained by a local realtor, Helen Mastrion, who recently sold a home to family that planned on jettisoning an unneeded wheelchair ramp — completed the project. Special thanks go to Ron, and his team of volunteers including Mike Gyarmathy, Gene Vetter, Mike Butterfield, Chris Daley and Kevin Wheeler. Four-legged helper Tess provided a wagging tail and moral support.

If you wish to volunteer for future local projects, contact Ron at mkd67@aol.com. You can donate toward future local projects here.


Large grant to help The Giving Circle to improve teaching and learning

Through the generosity of Business for Good, a Saratoga Springs philanthropy founded by Lisa and Mitzen, The Giving Circle is embarking on a long-term project to improve teaching and learning at its two schools near Jinja, Uganda.

The $60,000 grant from Business for Good, a Mitzen philanthropy that purchases for-profit businesses and spins off their profits for community good, will enable The Giving Circle to continue vital education work stalled by the pandemic. The Mitzens, along with staff from their advertising and marketing firm, Fingerpaint, have already helped build and staff a medical clinic in Kagoma Gate’s neighboring village of Mutai.

Presenting the check

The check presentation with Mark Bertrand and Moses Wambi online.

President Leo Geoffrion said The Giving Circle plans to use the Business for Good education grant to expand teacher professional development at its schools in Kagoma Gate and Busoga, where students perform at high levels despite poorly trained and, in some cases, poorly educated teachers.

Before the pandemic, The Giving Circle had partnered with the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center to take teams of master teachers to Uganda to deliver high-level professional development. Week-long conferences in 2019 and 2020 trained about 90 teachers in research-based teaching practices used in New York’s public schools.

“We saw first-hand how the Ugandan teachers in our two schools used their new-found knowledge to begin transforming how they teach,” said Ann Fantauzzi, The Giving Circle’s vice president for education programs. “Of course, the biggest beneficiaries from better teaching are the children, who will learn more and have brighter futures.”

Sharing the program goals with the Mitzens

“Imagine what we will be able to accomplish when we take this already proven concept and invest more, expand it and give our teachers in Uganda the kind of professional training they need,” Geoffrion added. “We can’t thank the Mitzen’s and Business for Good enough for their generosity and long-standing commitment to The Giving Circle.”

Moses Wambi, The Giving Circle’s Africa director, told Business for Good staff at a mid-morning ceremony via Zoom, “I am humbled, on behalf of our team, for the wonderful gift you are presenting to us today.”

The Giving Circle’s reach in Uganda is only possible through its founders, Mark and Kelly Bertrand, whose incredible dedication and indomitable spirit guided construction of the Friendship School at Kagoma Gate and initiated programs for students with disabilities at the Busoga Junior School, Geoffrion noted.

“Mark and Kelly’s vision of compassion, self-less service and expanding opportunities for some of the poorest people in Africa is ingrained in The Giving Circle,” Geoffrion said. “This grant is one more step towards fulfilling a dream —ensuring that every child in our Uganda schools has the opportunity to soar.”

Medical Care in Kagoma Gate

Excellent news! The Giving Circle announced today it helped 120 poor and vulnerable villagers with medical problems in October. The Giving Circle’s medical clinics treated patients with illnesses ranging from the flu and coughs to more serious illnesses like malaria and typhoid.
The medical clinics at Kagoma Gate and Mutai also delivered five babies, and gave pre-natal care to seven expectant mothers. The Giving Circle is able to provide midwifery services in Uganda thanks to a generous grant from The Soroptomists International of Saratoga County.
Head nurse Lydia Musubika Egessa reported no cases of Covid, but said patients presented with asthma, pneumonia, coughs and flu-like symptoms. Lydia and Dennis, her chief assistant, said the medical clinics treated mostly children in October, but also 16 men and 20 women.
The medical clinics are funded by donations to The Giving Circle www.thegivingcircle.org/donate — and with generous support from Fingerpaint, a Saratoga Springs-based advertising company.
Here’s a photo of mothers waiting to see the nurses at our clinic in Mutai.
Parents waiting for clinic care.

Giving Circle volunteers exemplify generosity, compassion in busy weekend

If compassion, generosity and volunteerism are hallmarks of The Giving Circle, we proved it this past weekend.

The Local Projects Committee, led by Ron Deutsch and Mike Gyamathy, among others, pulled off another one of their holiday miracles. A team identified a senior citizen in need — a woman whose home was, literally, collapsing around her. Over the span of about nine hours, The Giving Circle’s volunteer team removed and repaired rotten flooring; laid down a new floor; replaced a hot water heater and fixed a number of leaking pipes. The work literally saved this woman’s house!

Our amazing crew of volunteers pulled off this Holiday Miracle in just one day.
Special thanks to Mike Gyarmathy (and his sons Mike and Joe); Chris Bennet; Gene Vetter; Dan Matrazzo; Chris Daley; Abby and Jose Gonzalez; Andrea and Ernie Mann; Ken Tymula, and Mary and Mike Los, for bringing a delicious hot lunch.

Meanwhile, on Sunday evening, some three dozen Giving Circle volunteers brought the holiday spirit to local seniors, who have been somewhat isolated by the pandemic. In two teams, The Giving Circle serenaded local seniors with Christmas carols and holiday songs, bringing smiles to their faces and a little spring to their step. Thanks to Donna Olsen for organizing this wonderful holiday outing, which lifted everyone’s spirits.

These two events are a microcosm of what The Giving Circle does day in and day out — exemplifying the principles of generosity, compassion, thoughtfulness and volunteer activism in order to make our little place in the world a little brighter. You can continue to support our ongoing work here in Saratoga County and in rural Uganda with your contribution. Click on www.thegivingcircle.org/donate

The Giving Circle’s generosity helps to address food insecurity in Uganda

With Covid-19 restrictions closing schools and increasing unemployment among already impoverished residents of Kagoma Gate, Wairaka and Mutai, founder Mark Bertrand launched an effort to provide relief — and Giving Circle supporters jumped into action.

The Giving Circle board approved emergency funds and several benefactors made large donations. This enabled our TGC-Africa team to purchase two truckloads of cornmeal, rice and other food staples for the villages. This helped stave off hunger while reducing economic pressures on “our” families. Our friends in Uganda who led the effort reported villages broke out in singing and dancing in celebration and thanks when the trucks pulled up and began distributing the 5-kilo bags of food staples. 

The Giving Circle Africa team is continuing to monitor pandemic conditions in our Uganda villages.  Additional food aid may be needed if travel does not re-open soon.  You can contribute here.

Building Projects in Uganda Take Shape

As lockdown restrictions in Uganda ease, work has resumed at several Giving Circle projects that will improve education and healthcare in the villages we serve.

At Mutai, an impoverished village, not far from Kagoma Gate, work has resumed at a new medical clinic made possible by the generosity of the Mitzen family and the good folks at Fingerpaint. In addition, Walubi Emma’s crew has completed a new latrine that will improve sanitation and, hopefully, end illnesses such as diarrhea. Meanwhile, work is ongoing on a new bore holes that will help ensure clean drinking water for the people of Mutai. The new wells are being funded by the incredible generosity of the Bobear Family Foundation.

Perhaps most exciting at Mutai — at least for the children — will be construction of a new playground, the first many of these children have ever seen.

Meanwhile, at Kagoma Gate, Emma and his crew are also finishing work on a safety wall around the Busoga School and Koi Koi House orphanage; and on expanding the school buildings to make them larger and handicap accessible.

This progress is made possible by all of you who have used your own personal funds to help create better lives for our friends in Uganda.

TGCA Uganda Teachers Conference Under Way

We have a team of teachers from the Capital District Region (Albany) lead by Ann Fantauzzi in a 2-day conference in Uganda.  Mark Bertrand will be joining them on the 2nd day as he heads out tomorrow. TGC has partnered with a team of Master Teachers from the Greater Capital Regional Teachers Center!


A very happy little girl!

Our last update the little girl who was sleeping on her mattress on a cold concrete floor –> who dreamed of a real bed of her own, a aloft bed.

We were contacted by an old, very kind friend working for Catholic Charities Albany telling us of a poor family she is helping who had moved into Saratoga County. Samantha Marie got together friends to paint the walls and install new flooring but still lacked the funds to make this little girls dream of this special bed come true.

The Giving Circle does what we do: we stepped in where we saw we could make a difference and make a dream come true. The bed is installed and all her new princess bedding in place.

The little princess stood atop of her dream bed and declared “I’m the queen of the world“!

ANY and ALL things we do, we do because of all of you who help support the work we do.

From building schools, clinics, wells, sanitation, farms and more than ½  way around the world to repairing, remodeling and fitting out homes here in in Saratoga county for poor families and families with disabled children to simply provide a bed and special bedding to bring a poor little girl happiness and hope to her and her family. The Giving Circle and all we do the lives we change for the better is because of your support!

Every child deserves a bed, everyone deserves hope and happiness, the knowledge people care about them.

She is now “The queen of the world”!

Thank you Samantha Marie for all your good work and contacting TGC.